Monday, March 06, 2006


The proposed Internal Evolutionary Mechanism and 'Cultural Evolution'

Howard Martin Temin (December 10, 1934 - February 9, 1994) was a U.S. geneticist. He discovered reverse transcriptase in the 1970's at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. He won a Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 1975 for describing how tumor viruses act on the genetical material of the cell through reverse transcriptase. This upset the widely held belief at the time of the "Central Dogma" of molecular biology posited by Nobel laureate Francis Crick, one of the co-discoverers of the structure of DNA (along with James Watson and Rosalind Franklin). []
In his book "The Great Evolutionary Mystery", Gordon Rattray Taylor also commented on the relevance of Temin's work to the "Central Dogma" and then went on to say:
With the dogma thus modified, the philosophical objection to Lamarckism was removed. What continued to be lacking was a mechanism by which the phenotype change, if any, could generate the information and rtansmit it to the gentic material. It was not simply that no mechanism could be demonstrated, no one could even imagine a way in which it could be done.
The proposed internal evolutionary mechanism is certainly testable but An Error In Associating Lamarck With 'Adaptive Mutations'? indicates why it should not be associated with "Lamarckism", or indeed, any other "ism". The argument for this non-association is only representative of those that could be presented were it considered worthwhile to do so.

Similarly, a single example may suffice to explain why no particular attention will be paid to "Cultural Evolution" other than that relevant to the third of the current Aims:
3) Address those cultural factors which are applicable to answering the question "If an internal evolutionary mechanism exists, then why hasn't it been found before?"
In June of 2001 an EurekaAlert entitled "Rape - an evolutionary strategy?" began:
A SINGLE act of rape may be more than twice as likely to make a woman pregnant as a single act of consensual sex.

That statistic will reopen the hotly contested debate over whether rape can be a successful reproductive strategy in evolutionary terms. It could help to explain why men raping women has been so common throughout history and across cultures, two American researchers told the conference. Previous studies found that rates of pregnancy resulting from rape could be anything up to 30 per cent, compared to a 2 to 4 per cent chance of getting pregnant from a single act of consensual sex. This led some biologists, notably Randy Thornhill from the University of New Mexico at Albuquerque, to parade the figures as evidence that rape is a natural way for men to spread their genes (New Scientist, 19 February 2000, p 44).
Most people (if not all!) who have worked with the victims of sexual violence will say something like "Rape isn't about sex, its about control". Specifically, it is suggested, a need for psychological control stemming from the rapist's own psychology - ie maladjustment to a compounded childhood trauma.

If you were to see a man cross a street one morning then such behaviour would appear perfectly natural. If the same man were to cross the street a few days later, but in the interim had sustained a broken leg, then the change in behavior would obviously be a function of the injury to life that has occurred.

Psychological wounds have the same reality as physical wounds and if behavior becomes a function of an injury to life then there can be no direct relationship with the nature of life itself.

If no consideration is given to the psychology of rapists then possiby the most common reason why rapes occur is being overlooked.

Equally, if a single act of rape "may be more than twice as likely to make a woman pregnant as a single act of consensual sex" then consideration should also be given to how organisms biologically react when 'in extremis'. From Literature Review of Autoerotic Asphyxia and Fatalities:
"An engraving attributed to Durer (c. 1520) depicts a man ejaculating while being hanged in a torture chamber amidst chained skeletons while another prisoner is flogged. Thus the observation that ejaculation may accompany hanging had become known to laymen at least by the early sixteenth century."
Hardly an effective evolutionary strategy!

From a wider perspective the above reflects the belief that "Cultural Evolution" is only worth addressing if the 'noise' generated by psychological trauma is taken into consideration.

John Latter

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